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MADISON – A report detailing the amount of groundwater and surface water pumped by Wisconsin’s largest water users is now available online for 2012 and reflects increased usage due in large part to the 2012 drought, state water officials say.
Overall, the amount of water pumped from high capacity surface and groundwater withdrawals totaled 2.258 trillion gallons in 2012, up 4.6 percent from 2011, according to Bob Smail, the Department of Natural Resources water supply specialist who created the report.
That increase includes a 36.4 percent increase in the amount of groundwater pumped from Wisconsin aquifers, with agricultural irrigation surpassing municipal withdrawals as the largest withdrawer of groundwater in 2012, the report shows.
Under state law, any wells or surface water intakes on a property with the capacity to withdraw at least 100,000 gallons per day or 70 gallons per minute are required to report their usage annually. For 2012, there were 14,184 registered high capacity withdrawal sources in the state — 13,191 wells and 995 surface water sources.
Major changes in water use from the 2011 reporting year are:
• Power production withdrawals declined in 2012 mostly due to decreased withdrawals at several large coal-fired plants.
• Withdrawals for irrigation increased in 2012 due to the prolonged drought, with agricultural irrigation withdrawals up 83 percent and golf course irrigation withdrawals up 87 percent.
• Cranberry production withdrawals were up significantly in 2012 due to the record heat in early spring, increased irrigation demand during summer and low reservoir levels in autumn.
• Agricultural irrigation surpassed municipal withdrawals as the largest withdrawer of groundwater in 2012.
• Municipal public water withdrawals were up 2.6 percent. This increase was somewhat reduced by conservation strategies and ordinances implemented by municipalities.
• Non-metallic mining withdrawals were down 4 percent, mostly because lowered water tables decreased the need for quarry pit dewatering.
Smail says the quality of reports provided by water supply system owners and operators has improved significantly from when the program began several years ago. “The high quality of data allows us to understand how withdrawals vary along with changes in weather and economic demand,” he says.